It is supposed to be thirty degrees today. If you’re reading this from the US, I should note that I’m getting pretty tired of writing Celsius on the end of my temperatures so as not to confuse you further, so I’m officially phasing out my unit conversion service, trimming back the excess overgrowth and organic creep, just like I did in my flowerbed for and hour and a half last night. On hands and knees I clipped a good five centimeters of overreaching lawn from the edging around my tulip farm. With this and the other winter dead fall I filled nearly an entire composting bag… from one flower bed. It looks darn good, even though it has yet to fully emerge for the season, but it makes me realize just how much yardwork I have to do in the coming weeks to catch up. Can you believe we had ten centimeters of snow less than two weeks ago?
December 21 I don’t want to make a big deal about it quite yet because there is still a lot to do before the project can be considered finished, done, and final. But a milestone today: we have water. Heaps of work, a deconstruction, mending walls, replacing floors, and then watching the cabinets assemble into something that finally got topped with a beautiful slab of stone that is now my countertop. And then today, as if just to insist progress is being made, Leon’s friend the plumber patched in a new drain and water line, connecting the sink into a glorious circuit of aquatic wonder. You take these things for granted, and then one day you remove it and… well, it seems like a big step to be able to wash dishes in our kitchen once again. Still so much fiddly work: more cabinetry, a backsplash, and hundreds of five minute jobs to finalize and complete the work… but it’s getting there.
Probably shoveling. Yeah, shoveling snow is so awesome. It’s the best. You should come over next time it snows. I’ll let you try it. Just don’t tell anyone else how awesome it is.
It’s that time of year again. The holidays. Gush.
Despite still living in a quasi-construction zone, we made the most of the one livable corner of our main floor and –because Claire is super-into-it this year– set up a tree. A real one. The torso of an evergreen propped up and properly trimmed as per holiday tradition, right there in the living room.
I took some photos:
Because we’re renovating we have been frequenting the kinds of stores you don’t tend to frequent unless you are in need of, say, home renovation supplies. This leads to new, interesting –sometimes puzzling– and often antiquated interactions with businesses who are still operating in a simpler time.
For example, yesterday we went shopping for cabinet handles.
The store (which shall remain unnamed) where we finally found something we liked had a big display, great selection but an oddly unexplained process where you were required to fill in a form and then walk to the counter, take a number that has been barfed out by a big red machine, and then go through some rigmarole to purchase what you wanted.
I filled in the form, walked to the counter, and the lady at the counter asks: “Are you a member?”
I say no.
“Do you want to become a member? It’s free.”
I hesitate and decline. “That’s ok.” She says. “What do you need today?”
I show her the form. I had requested 43 handles of the variety we’d chosen.
“Hmmm… you need 43?”
“I can’t give you 43 today.”
“Can I buy one?”
“Yes.” She says and disappears into the back to get the part. When she returns she scratched out the “43” I’d written on the form and replaces it with a “1”.
“How would I go about getting 42 more of these?” I ask, assuming it was not necessarily a stupid question.
“I can’t sell you 42.”
“Can I order more?”
“No.” She says. “They are in stock.”
“Can I buy 43 then?” I ask again.
She sighs heavily. “Why don’t you just become a member?” She says, exasperation in her voice, as if this is the most obvious thing in the world.
“If that’s what I need to do, ok then.” And I fill out the membership portion of the order form.
I hand it back to her. “Now,” she says, “we’ll fax that out and the ladies back east will put you into the computer and send you a membership number.” She follows this by handing me a set of doorstop-sized paper catalogs and then walking towards a cash til beckoning me to follow her.
“So I can’t buy 43 today?”
“If you like this one you can call in and order the rest.” She says flatly, and rings up my single handle. “How would you like to pay?”
Just take my freaking money and give me what I want to buy. Is that so difficult? To sum up, after driving clear across the city, we were the proud owners of a single cabinet handle…. uh… success?
We went home and ordered the rest off the internet. I expect those will be delivered before I ever find out what my customer number is.
Assuming no snags with the renovation progress, having a sink in our kitchen again.
…that installing laminate flooring is easy, but installing it well is an art form.
The great home renovation project of 2016 has met another milestone: we’re now waiting. Waiting for cabinet doors. Waiting for quartz. Waiting for things to happen that are pretty much out of our control. We did the last big project on Saturday, the part where I drill a six-inch-wide hole in the side of our house because the existing vent for the fume hood was much too low for either usability or legality. I installed a brand new vent nearly a foot higher on the wall and then patched up the old vent because, well, it was no longer required. We started doing some cleanup, too, and we’ve effectively moved back into the dining room and the living room and it only partially feels like a construction zone in the house these days. Leon’s eyes got really wide when Karin told him that she’d invited friends over for New Years Eve: yeah, we should be done, probably, mostly, yeah, you can host a party here… there will be a few things to do, but good enough to have people over. I think that as long as we have a sink, that should do nicely.
A lot can happen in a month. Since I last posted about this renovation project we’ve been on two vacations, I’ve run the New York Marathon, been to Disneyland, run another half marathon, and completely gutted the main floor of the house.
We’ve also started the rebuilding process.
Well… Leon has done most of the technical work. Karin and I have continued the painting effort and I’ve installed about two-thirds of the (now fully installed) flooring.
The plumbing is moved.
The electrical has a few more tweaks before it’s complete.
The wall-side cabinetry is basically done.
The island cabinetry is imminent.
The fixtures (sink, faucet, fume hood, etc) are sitting in boxes in our house.
The cupboard doors are being built as I write this.
The counter-tops are in queue.
And my brain, body and soul are so damn tired I can’t even begin to impress upon you the depth of my fatigue without resorting to cartoonish cliche.
We spent most of the weekend installing floor. I clocked a good 16 hours measuring, cutting, snapping, tapping, and otherwise nudging into place little strips of laminate board. We bought a high end, vinyl laminate product with a built-in cork underlay. It’s beautiful installed. And my only complaint would be that I wish the pieces were about twice the size… but only to have made installation a bit faster. Now that it’s in… who cares.
With the floor in we not only reclaimed our dining room as open space (it was being used to store the boxes of laminate for the last three months) but were able to move our table in there and actually start the process of returning back to normal. Sure, there is no sink in our kitchen, and the stove is only connected in the sense that I’d need a wrench to move it, but considering the peak chaos state we’d reached about a week ago, I can feel the migration back towards day-to-day life progressing.
Some photos of various states of progress over the last week (or hours)…
In case you don’t know me in real life… or do and haven’t yet realized that all I seem to be capable of talking about these days is either (a) upcoming-marathon jitters or (b) the fifteen bandages on my fingers as a result of kicking off a home renovation… uh, we’re renovating.
We’ve been in our house for nearly a dozen years. When we built, and knowing that we didn’t really know our own tastes well enough at that point, we deliberately selected from the the wee-tiny selection of builder-grade finishing options. Those options sucked, to be honest. They were cheap, and we grudgingly opted for colours and styles and qualities that we knew we could live with for a while. We also knew we were going to want to upgrade at some point, so why invest in high quality materials we sort of liked and knew we would eventually replace?
The fact is that we live in our house. Live in. Enjoy. Use. With all the associated wear-and-tear that comes with such a lifestyle. We cook in our kitchen. We entertain in our living room. We traipse through the rooms and have filled our little space with memories.
So… of course, it’s starting to show some age.
The renovation begins…
Of course, this was supposed to be a summer project… then the dog got sick, and life got distracted, and winter came early. So, having just kinda, sorta kicked off the project by spending some money and filling our dining room with some of the supplies, we were suddenly in a bind: either sit on in for six months and wait until next summer, or just get going.
We got going.
I’m not doing all the work tho. We’ve got help. But we are doing most of the demolition. We are doing all of the painting. We are installing the new floors. We’re probably doing some of the other nitpicky work that anybody slightly handy with some spare time and a few tools can manage to do.
And now the clock is ticking: the weekend, thus, turned into a work-fest. When I got home on Thursday evening we still had a full floor (save for a few tiles I had chipped out experimentally_ but by the time Sunday evening rolled ’round, the painting was 80% done, the floor was mostly bare, and about 20% of the kitchen had been disassembled. We are officially living in a construction zone.
I took a full load of scraps to the ecostation on Friday, with it the tile that used to adorn our front entry (including the plywood to which it had been mounted) and the angular chunk of cheap-o builder-grade carpet that had served as our living room floor for the last decade.
We’ve been plucking nails, pulling baseboards, and I’ve breathed in so many paint fumes from the never-ending painting that I have a permanent headache. But, apart from the fact that the catalyst for all this was the kitchen and we’ve barely touched that, we’re at this point where we can start to see that the new space is going to look pretty good: we like our new colours, the floor is going to flow better in the space (so it won’t feel so chunky) and it will have a lighter, cleaner look when we finish it all…
That finish line may be closer to Christmas time than originally intended, but right now I can live with that.
Between marathon training and kicking off a major renovation project, probably the “sleep” icon… if only I could actually click it.
Had a new Shop Vac delivered from Amazon: renovating your house is messy business, as it turns out.